SE: K-State Falls to Kansas in Phillips 66 Big 12 Quarterfinals

KANSAS CITY, Missouri – Kansas State’s time at the Phillips 66 Big 12 Men’s Basketball Championship was cut short yesterday afternoon as the Wildcats (17-16) fell, 85-63, to No. 1 Kansas (28-4) in Sprint Center. 

“We played a hard-fought game (against Oklahoma State), but today, it just seemed like we were a step behind everything,” said Weber after the loss. “Defensively, that was our biggest challenge. We talked about not giving them lay-ups, and right away they got some transition, some lay-ups and got going and feeling good, and then they started jumping up and making shots. That made it tough on us, there's no doubt.” 

Despite the loss, Wildcat senior Justin Edwards shined on the court as he played his best game of the year, scoring a game- and season-high 23 points and grabbing 10 rebounds – his third double-double of the season. 

“When you're making shots, you want to continue to keep shooting,” said Edwards following yesterday afternoon’s game. “Today I just had the hot hand and I was just making shots, so I just continued to try to keep doing it and help my team as much as I could.” 

Edwards has been playing at a high level in his final stretch as a Wildcat and has scored in double figures in 10 of his last 11 games, including two 20-point performances and two double-doubles. 

The Jayhawks shot lights out in the first half to take a 45-30 halftime lead over K-State. Kansas hit 59 percent (16-of-27) of its shots in the opening 20 minutes, while K-State knocked down just 41 percent (13-of-32) from the field. Despite going on an 8-0 run and coming within four points of Kansas late in the first half, K-State was unable to close the gap. 

In the second half, it was Edwards who stepped to the plate for K-State. The senior guard from Whitby, Ontario, scored 17 second-half points. However, with another strong shooting performance from Kansas – the Jayhawks finished the game shooting 57 percent from the field overall – the Cats couldn’t muster a comeback. 

“It’s disappointing that we couldn't give them a better game today,” said Weber. “I didn't think we played as tough and strong as we needed to in the first half. We had some opportunities; even though they were making some shots, we had some shot opportunities at the rim, loose balls and different things like that, but they ended up being the ones that got the ball. That makes a difference in the game.” 

Along with Edwards, juniors D.J. Johnson and Wesley Iwundu also scored 10 points each. Kansas was led in scoring by senior Perry Ellis’ 21 points and six rebounds. 

With the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship now in the rearview for the Wildcats, K-State now eyes an NIT Tournament berth. The NIT seeding will be announced at 8:30 p.m., on Sunday. The selection show will be aired on ESPNU. 

“I definitely feel like we should be in it,” said Iwundu. “Not only for the team, but for our seniors. Our strength of schedule, we played with some top teams and had a couple of good wins and, really, no bad losses. I feel for the seniors, and I want to play some more games with them, but at the end of the day, it's left up to the committee or whoever is in charge of that. But as a team, we do want to play in the NIT.” 

K-State makes a strong case for the NIT as, outside of conference play, the Wildcats went 11-2 with its only two losses coming to ACC regular-season champion North Carolina (80-70 on Nov. 24) and SEC regular-season champion Texas A&M (78-68 on Dec. 12). The Wildcats defeated No. 1 Oklahoma, 80-68, on Feb. 6, and took No. 19/17 West Virginia to the wire, losing a double-overtime thriller, 87-83, on Jan. 2. 

K-State’s season has been made up of close calls against some of the nation’s top teams. 

“I believe we deserve to be in the NIT,” said Weber. “There's probably a lot of other teams, but we played a very, very difficult schedule. We've competed with everybody outside of the league. We were very good, but we just have to wait and see what happens. I hope, for these guy's sake, we get an opportunity to play again.”